Penguins Return to Playoffs Highlights the Importance of Sports Tourism to the Region

Sports tourism is vital to Pittsburgh’s economy, generating billions of dollars

PITTSBURGH – The Pittsburgh Penguins are back in the playoffs for the 13th straight year! That is great news for the city beyond producing a tremendous sense of pride, according to SportsPITTSBURGH, the sports development arm for VisitPITTSBURGH. Each playoff game could generate more than $4 million in direct spending for the city. During the team’s last Stanley Cup run in 2017, home playoff games totaled more than $58.8 million in direct spending.

“Of course, the most important reason we enjoy seeing the Pens back in the playoffs is city pride and the excitement they create for their extensive fan base, but all those home playoff games create a lot of business for our hotels, restaurants, bars, transportation companies and many others,” said Jennifer Hawkins, executive director of SportsPITTSBURGH.

According to Hawkins, sports tourism is vital to driving visitation and direct spending to Pittsburgh and in raising awareness of our city both domestically and internationally. “Every time the Penguins, Steelers or Pirates are on national television, our beautiful city and skyline are featured. That is advertising and exposure we could not afford.”

In addition to the Penguins, Steelers, and Pirates, Pittsburgh is fortunate to have the Riverhounds, celebrating its 20th anniversary, and the Passion – both winning franchises. Collegiate, amateur and youth sports events also generate significant spending. In March, Pittsburgh hosted NCAA Division I Wrestling for the first time since 1957, which generated more than $10 million for the local economy. Wrestling fans from across the country visited Pittsburgh for this event.

SportsPITTSBURGH also cites the following events and their direct spending numbers as examples of the importance of sports tourism to the region:

East Coast Volleyball 2018 East Coast Championships – $3.95 million
DICK’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon 2018 – $13.16 million
Hoop Group 2018 Pitt JamFest – $5.47 million

Sports tourism is big business throughout the country. According to Longwoods International, a market research company, in 2017, 125.2 million people traveled overnight for sports events; generating $32 billion in travel expenditures. This travel includes everything from professional and collegiate sports to high school and youth sports.

And, according to a study done by the Steelers, Penguins, and Pirates, over the last five years, sports tourism lead to numerous jobs, $6 billion in direct/indirect spending, $73 million in state and local tax revenue for the City of Pittsburgh and $24 million for Allegheny County.

“For most Steelers home games, our Downtown hotels are extremely busy, not only with the opposing team fans but with Steelers fans who travel from across the globe to watch the game,” said Hawkins.

Even when the teams are traveling, sports venues still generate direct spending. “This summer, Heinz Field will host Garth Brooks and the largest crowd ever in that venue,” Hawkins said. “There are going to be a lot of country music fans enjoying our great city. We are so fortunate to have so many successful sports franchises, multi-purpose venues and the greatest sports fans in the world.”

As the sports development division of VisitPITTSBURGH, SportsPITTSBURGH's primary goal is to attract and host a wide variety of sporting events in the region, providing the experience and expertise to reinforce Pittsburgh's reputation as a legendary sports town.